Despite it all, America’s Jews are still voting for the Democrats

The loyalty remains strong even though they tax them and use quotas to exclude their children from the best universities


WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as he announces a $42 billion investment in high-speed internet infrastructure during an event in the East Room of the White House on June 26, 2023 in Washington, DC. The investment is part of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package and part of the administration's goal to connect all Americans to high-speed broadband by 2030. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

June 29, 2023 12:51

Himmelfarb’s Law holds that “Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans”. This rather blunt observation was made in the late Sixties by Milton Himmelfarb, a first-generation neoconservative intellectual. It was true for decades, but it is not now.

Himmelfarb noted that Americans tended to vote by education and income. The better-educated and higher-earning they were, the more they voted Republican. The best-educated, highest-earning religious groups in America were Jews and Episcopalians (which is what Americans call Anglicans).

The Episcopalians voted with their class interest for Nixon. The Jews, notoriously, were the exception. They voted Democratic, as if they were still the poor and urban outsiders their grandparents had been.

As if, to put it indelicately, they were like the Puerto Ricans immigrants in New York who, as Leonard Bernstein wrote in West Side Story, lived “Twelve in a room in America”.

They don’t make Episcopalians like they used to. Since the 1960s, the liberal wing of Christianity, like the liberal wing of Judaism, has lost its religion and merged into the Democratic Party. The liberal Jews were already there.

So it would be more accurate to say that Episcopalians now earn and vote like liberal Jews. Both groups epitomise “gentry liberals”, which is a polite way of saying “limousine liberals” (which is what Americans call champagne socialists).

Nor are American Jews unique in voting Democrat even though the Democrats will tax them and use quotas to exclude their children from the best universities.

So many exceptional religious minorities now excel in America that it’s almost unexceptional. American Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims are also better-educated and higher-earning than average. They also tend to vote Democratic.

Part of this, as the Jews will attest, is that “you dance with the one what brung you”. The old Democratic Party, the party of the unions and the little guy, carried the Jews into the mainstream, along with other recent Old World arrivals like the Italians, the Poles and the Irish.

The new Democratic Party, the party of the universities and the plutocrats, has brought more recent strivers into the mainstream.

The Italians, the Irish and the Poles began to turn right when the Democrats turned left on cultural issues in the late Sixties. That turn is now complete. This is another reason why Himmelfarb’s Law is out of date. Jews are among the richest of Americans, and the Democratic Party is now the party of the rich.

More precisely, the Democrats are now the party of the very rich and the very poor. We could say that Jews now vote like both Episcopalians and Puerto Ricans.

In the 2016 elections, the Brookings Institute reports, the 2,584 counties which voted for Donald Trump produced 36 per cent of America’s economic output. The 472 that Hillary Clinton won produced 64 per cent of the economic output.

This gap widened in 2020: Trump won 2,547 counties (29 per cent of economic output) and Joe Biden won 509 counties (71 per cent of economic activity). It will widen further in 2024.

In 2020, the New York Times found, Biden raised more money than Donald Trump in Zip codes with a median household income of $100,000 or over ($486 million versus $167 million). Meanwhile, Trump raised most of his money ($565 million) from Zip codes where the median income is less than $100,000.

As recently as 2012, the Republicans were the choice of professionals, white-collar workers and the college-educated. No more. The Republican base is now less educated and more “working class” (which is what Americans call middle-middle or lower-middle class). The Republican Party is also much whiter and more Christian.

What does this mean for the Jewish vote in 2024? If Milton Himmelfarb were alive today and persisted in making indelicate observations, he would say that though Jews earn like Hindus, they should vote like Evangelicals.

He would also be suffering from high blood pressure after reading the first survey of Jewish voters’ priorities since Joe Biden became president. More on that next week.

June 29, 2023 12:51

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